Timeline 1900 – 2017

Alfred Lawes

Though it is often assumed that the presence of minority ethnic people in Britain is limited to a city experience there is in fact an untold story of their experiences and history in more rural settings. 

Alfred Lawes, for example, was born in 1918 to a West Indian father and a white Welsh mother who met when his father came with other West Indian friends to the small town of Maerdy, in the Rhondda Valley in Wales, to seek work in the mines after they had been made redundant from their jobs as seamen. Far from being ostracised, Alfie and his parents were readily accepted into the local community.

For Alfie, it was only when he left Maerdy that his race became an issue. Signing up to fight in the Second World War, he was prevented from joining his colleagues to serve in India due to his colour.

“They were accepted. My father was black, my mother was white. But that was it. They accepted them and of course as we came along, my brother and my sister as well, we were accepted as on […] And I can honestly say this. That although down in Butetown, Cardiff, they [black and white couples] weren’t allowed out of it very much, in Maerdy they were part of it, they were exactly the same as if they were born in Maerdy.”

— Alfred Lawes. Source: Millennium Memory Bank, British Library